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Image Credit: NASA.

Cygnus NG-15 space freighter ready to depart the ISS

The Northrop Grumman uncrewed Cygnus NG-15 space freighter is scheduled to depart the International Space Station (ISS) on June 29, 2021. The spacecraft will be manually detached from the station’s Unity module by flight controllers on Earth. At around 16:25 UTC, the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm is expected to release NG-15, which will then depart the orbital laboratory before beginning its secondary mission.

The Cygnus NG-15 freighter, named “S.S. Katherine Johnson” after the NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson, was launched on February 20, 2021 at 13:36 EST (local time) / 17:36 UTC, atop a Northrop Grumman Antares 230+ rocket from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Space Port (MARS) on Wallops Island in Virgina, USA. After two days in orbit, S.S. Katherine Johnson rendezvoused with the International Space Station on February 22 and with the help of Canadarm2, was berthed to the Earth-facing docking port of the station’s Unity module at 12:16 UTC. The vehicle carried a total of 3,810 kg / 8,399 lbs. of cargo to the space station. This included 932 kg / 2,054 lbs. of crew supplies, 1,127 kg / 2,484 lbs. of science investigations, 1,413 kg / 3,115 lbs. of vehicle hardware, 24 kg / 52 lbs. of spacewalk equipment, 1 kg / 2 lbs. of computer resources and 24 kg / 52 lbs. of Russian hardware.

Launch of S.S. Katherine Johnson atop an Antares 230+. Image Credits: NASA/Patrick Black.

After departure from the ISS, Cygnus NG-15 will release five CubeSats, before performing a deorbit burn to slow itself down ahead of re-entry. Prior to release the capsule was loaded with trash from the station, which, together with Cygnus NG-15, will burn up in the atmosphere during the fiery return to planet Earth.

The NG-15 mission was Northrop Grumman’s 15 cargo flight to the International Space Station and the company’s fourth launch under the Commercial Resuppy Services 2 contract with NASA. The next Cygnus scheduled to launch to humanity’s outpost in low Earth orbit is Cygnus NG-16 in August 2021.


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